I don’t dislike Alfonso Soriano.

I’ve actually defended the guy’s effort for years now after hearing repeatedly that, behind the scenes, he was the hardest worker on the team. He comes off as a pleasant enough guy, one who cares about winning and losing, and one who tries very hard to improve every day.

So, when I heard him booed on occasion over the past three years – or worse, at the Cubs Convention this year – it made me a little sad.

Reading his take on the situation, and reading what he does off the field, made me a little more sad. From Cubs.com:

Alfonso Soriano heard the boos from fans when he was introduced during opening ceremonies at the Cubs Convention. He just flashed his megawatt smile. He’s heard the jeers at Wrigley Field when he misplays a ball.

He knows why. The 2012 season is the sixth year of his eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs, and Soriano says the money is all that fans see.

“They don’t see me as a baseball player,” Soriano said. “They see me as the contract. They don’t see my heart, nothing like that. That’s what it is. I know I have a big heart.”

His teammates know that, and they understand that with the mega deal comes higher expectations ….

“Once you get that contract, it happens,” Byrd said. “‘Sori’ is used to the boos and it doesn’t bother him. It’s all worth it when he gets those cheers, and that’s what he loves. When he hits that big home run and goes to the outfield and the entire left field is applauding him and bowing to him, that’s what he loves. Boos come with the big market. He played in New York, he knows what that’s about.”

This offseason, Soriano heard lots of cheers. Because of his generousity, more than 80 kids in the small municipality of Quisqueya in the Dominican Republic go to school. They get three meals a day. They are cared for.

The article goes on from there to detail Soriano’s many, many off-the-field efforts to help kids, abused women, young athletes, and more.

Soriano is what he is: an aging slugger on the back-end of an improvidently large contract. His legs are leaving him, his defensive ability is evaporating, and his large bat is getting a tick slower every month. None of that is his “fault.” None of it earns him a single boo. Indeed, the only thing he’s ever done that is marginally boo-able is staring when he hits fly balls, and hopping a little when he catches them.

At this point, he’s not going to be traded any time soon, and he’s going to be the Cubs’ primary left fielder to start the 2012 season. So, all we can do is cheer for him. Who knows? It might help just a little bit.

He’s clearly a good guy – that’s a part of “what he is,” too, you know. And I like rooting for guys like that, even if, ultimately, I’m ready to see the Cubs move on. So, I’ll cheer hard for Soriano while he’s here. And, when he moves on, I’ll be happy about that, too.

  • Mark Connelly

    move him to 1st base

  • mark

    I’ve always loved soriano. I know his performance hasn’t been great the last couple years, but remember the first few years of his contract. he was a stud, had it not been for him we wouldn’t have gone worst to first, or made the playoffs 2 years in a row. I always sit in left field bleachers at wrigley and he, at least it seems, to really care about the fans. we always have a good interaction with him. he goofs around with them. I always go early too and he and a couple other players go do extra bp every single game. there is no doubt in my mind that he doesn’t give 100% every game. I would rather have a guy like that, than a guy that just phones it in but might have a higher obp. I would love to see him have a bounce back year.

    • brad

      damn right soriano doesnt deserve all the boos hes a great guy hes aging and hesgettn older we shouldnt hate that jus cuz he got a big contract we all think he should be a superstar every year that guy busts his ass every year and we dnt appreciate that it pisses me off we cant stand behind OUR player soriano deserves our respect were cubs fan guys we have to stand behind our players through the good and bad times he hurts and feels bad when he doest do good hes only human

      • NL_Cubs

        Well, I guess that says it all, period!

  • Eric S

    We as Cub fans should NEVER boo our own player. END of story. It hurt a lot at the Cubs Convo to hear the boo birds out, and it hurt in 2006 when I heard them booing at Dusty Baker. We may not always agree with players, managers etc, but if we are “fans” of a team you love them regardless. We didn’t hear too many boo birds back in the day when the team went 0-14 did we? I think maybe it had something to do with Harry Carrey offering discounted beer until we won though.

  • Bob

    They see me as a contract. Yep pretty much nailed it. At least he has good head on his shoulders and using some of that big contract to help others. He definetly loves the cheers how bout instead boos just deafening silence. Lol that would be awesome.

  • Zach R

    I think this will be a fun season to watch. I like all the young guys that will get a lot of experience this year. For some reason, I believe Soriano will do better than the past years. It’s just a hunch. I’m calling it right now, Soriano will have 35 home runs, 90 RBIs, and .270 BA.

  • NL_Cubs

    Soriano’s contract might not be his fault but not living up to the expectations of the contract are his fault. His lack of defensive prowess in left…booable. His “home run pose” only to see the ball stay in the park and he’s only on 1st…very booable.

    He’s still wall shy in left, he was lazy out of the box on many occasions and any, and I do mean ANY ball hit to left when he’s in the field is like taking a trip to adventure land.

    He’s not being booed on a personal level nor on the contract level. He’s being booed on his lack luster performance, plain and simple. If he were catching routine balls, runs down  balls that he catches up to close to the wall without backing off, runs hard out of the box on every ball hit and shows hustle on each and every play, the boo-birds would be roosting.

    Sorry, but IMO, “Sori-ass-ano” has brought out the boos based on performance, not contract or personality.

    • http://dailybigten.com DBT

      “Sori-ass-ano”? Stay classy, NL_Cubs.

      That comment – more than any misplay Soriano has ever made – is “booable.”

    • bluekoolaidaholic

      Brutal but true.
      An aging vet with declining skills.
      A classy guy in some ways, a lazy bum in others
      A million or two to charity in his country doesn’t balance the ledger..
      Certainly a ham.
      Then if you add in the contract for all that, you get the boos.
      I don’t condone it, but I understand it.
      He gets booed for lack of hustle and poor performance.
      Sorry, Sori.
      And fans being classy has nothing to do with it.
      We want to win, and we don’t have much tolerance for lack of effort or hot dogging.

      Gut level honesty.

      • DocWimsey

        But you don’t know that he’s not putting in effort. You are merely projecting your beliefs of what effort looks like onto a player while ignoring the fact that most of the effort in baseball happens between the games.

        • bluekoolaidaholic

          Nope!, wrong Doc, a player must make effort on the field.
          for obvious reasons.
          I know that you love to be devil’s advocate and like to let us mere mortals know that you are much more intelligent and knowledgeable than we are, but not this time.

          • Quintz

            We shouldn’t judge Soriano’s effort on the field. What some deem lazy is what a psychologist or scout deems an inherent human flaw. Baseball “effort” is all about practice and preparation. It’s not what idiot fans see on WGN. I could write this a thousand times and 90% of you will still think Soriano not living up to his contract is due to “lack of hustle”.

  • Canadian Cubs Fan

    I really hope Soriano does have a bounce back season, as it’ll help the Cubs of 2012 and maybe make him more tradeable and force the Cubs to eat a little less on the remaining two years.

    There is one way he can improve at the plate:

    Use. A. Lighter. Bat. Seriously, I don’t get why players can’t admit that their bat-speed isn’t what it used to be. If Soriano was still hitting a lot of bombs with a .275 average, then it wouldn’t be a problem. But he’s not.

  • Spoda17

    Bret awesome job bro… I said it before the convention, I asked people not to boo him after I read that people were intending on doing that. He is a man first, then a ball player… we all age, we all get a bit older, and so do athletes… he is a good man and he takes his wealth and gives back… we should all cheer Sori. Is he going to bring us a World Series… no, but no one else has either in the past 100 years… We all would have take his contract…

  • Brent

    In about three months, people will not be as positive about Soriano. Lest we forget that his batting average has dropped off drastically, mainly from 2008 to 2009. He hit 46 HRs the year before he came to the Cubs and hasn’t gone over 30 since his first season. He should not hear boos at a convention (that’s ridiculous) but he deserves the criticism he gets from his on field performance. In any other job, you would not want an aging employee who cannot perform his job as he once could. Would you want a firefighter who couldn’t climb ladders anymore? Would you want a pilot flying your plane if his eyesight hindered his ability to see the runway? (& I know those involve life/death & this is just baseball). The fact is Soriano is paid like a top tier player when he hasn’t been since 2008. And his playoff performance that year shouldn’t be ignored either. Does Sori work really hard? Sure, but in the words of Clark Griswold’s father-in-law, so do washing machines.

  • Cubbies4Life

    Sorry about the ya’all. Heck, I’m not even a southerner!

  • http://www.sportsdanny.com sportsdanny.com

    it is not Soriano’s fault the Tribune gave him 8 years-nobody deserves to be booed unless their is a lack of effort and with Soriano that is not the case – I say lay off him!

  • John Jones

    Give the money back!!!! I’m a great guy too, doesn’t mean I deserve a 136 Million dollar contract! This guy is robbing anybody who has ever given the cubs money in any way! I don’t give a damn how hard he works. If he works harder than anyone else on the team, than that must mean he has no natural talent because he flat out sucks.